There's two mindsets about reissues: the cynical one will proclaim that it shows how the pencil-pushing bean counters of the music industry want to play it safe by double dipping on the nostalgia factor. The second mindset (which I seem to subscribe to) is that it might give a second chance to overlooked albums and artists that might have missed their chance in the limelight.

It might be naïve mindset, but, hey, sometimes you have to think the best of people, not the worst.

With all that said, the newest offering in this season of re-releases (some beautiful, some cashgrabs) is a 3 CD (or 3 LP) mammoth called Hell Below, which compiles the recordings (of varied quality) of four bands formed by US soldiers during the seventies.

A little history is required: the music of the 70s was fuelled by protests, social unrest and, of course, the horrible imageries of the Vietnam War (the first televised war that disturbed many a soul). Times of war and unrest always seem to fuel arts, and some of the best music we know and love is from this period.

Again, the album is a compilation of the work of 4 bands, called East of Underground, Soap, The Black Seeds and The Sound Trek. Their music covers funk and soul classics, and you do wonder how the high brass let slide a couple of protest classics like '(Don't worry) If there's a hell below we're all going to go' and 'People get ready'. Maybe they wanted to silently join in the protesting.

East of the Underground have the best sound quality on the record. Possibly studio demos (you even get countdowns), the funky soul sounds are probably the best you can find on this compilation. Those artful bass lines are the Zeitgeist of the era, giving the sound a thick body and a lot of attitude. 'Hell Below' is probably the one you'll recognise first, but there's a gem in a medley combining 'Popcorn' with Santana's 'Oye como va' (in itself, a goddamned classic). It's biased to go for the crisper recording as the highlight of the box, but it's damn pleasing to the ear.

The section for Soap is slightly of lower sound quality, but the smooth grooves are still there for your aural pleasure. Some love to the softer sounds of the seventies are their thing (Carole King, Cheer). It only misses the hiss of the tape or the crackle of the vinyl to be a complete time travel through a thousand lounges in the 70s. Very lovely.

Now the tracks for the Battle of the Bands section of Hell Below is where audio quality might drop a bit. The audience cheers might drown the sound in places, but whatever is lost in fidelity is more than made up in talent. The Black Seeds do simply wonderful covers of 'Black Magic woman' (Santana) and 'Ain't no sunshine' (Bill Withers). The Sound Trek also do a very good job, and it's a good thing I didn't have to judge the whole deal - I'd be hard pressed to choose which one had the most soul invested in their very talented musical hands.

These bands formed in barracks. They were brothers in arms and little information can be found about what became of them. They might have gone their different ways after the war (I told you I'm naïve), they might have died in the war, or they might have gone into bands that never found success. This compilation not only captures their tribute to the sounds of their troubled era, but it also the timelessness of said songs and how they connected to people that had to go to Hell and back again.